Machiavelli’s theories are widely considered as ruthless and immoral, and yet this Florentine official was scrupulously honest, which perhaps explains why he died impoverished. Many would do well to heed the advice he gave the ideal “prince”, including new executives in the luxury business who can find themselves managing products that wouldn’t be out of place in a royal palace, and dealing with customers as demanding as monarchs. Not to mention, here and there, colleagues eager to be part of their court. Machiavelli warns the Prince against such flatterers. He should take counsel only from the wise men in his state who will speak the truth with conscience and in the appropriate manner.
The Prince must demonstrate virtù, for while it is true that fortune, that is destiny, lies in wait it is no less true that, in Machiavelli’s words, fortune “dimostra la sua potenzia dove non è ordinata virtù a resisterle” [shows her power where valour has not prepared to resist her].
We can still learn from these words. When destiny forces its will upon us, as it has during these years of crisis, those who succeeded in putting their values in order are better equipped to stand firm in the face of change.
The Florentine intellectual, however unscrupulous he may have been, ultimately demonstrates a deep understanding of human nature, which remains unchanged throughout history. While the world of Fine Watchmaking has little in common with the reigns and principalities of the Italian Renaissance, his counsel remains of the utmost interest to those, including in the world of luxury, who aim to reach a certain level of performance (sales, growth, success) and want to know the most appropriate means of achieving this.
Appropriate in the sense of efficient, of course, but also the most honest. A lesson which Machiavelli possibly doesn’t set out as explicitly as he might but which, for those dealing in authentic luxury, is fundamental. Growth is achieved through strategy, of course, but also with valour and virtue. A reasoning which the princes of luxury must bear in mind.